Policing and justice devolution in Northern Ireland welcome, say MPs

01 April 2010

The devolution of policing and justice powers within the next two weeks (by 12 April) is welcome after a long and patient process towards cross-community support for the restoration of powers last held in Northern Ireland itself in 1972, says the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in a report published today

The report welcomes the breach of the last barrier to full power-sharing at Stormont, just weeks before the expected UK general election. It also warns, however, that a new justice minister within the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive will face several significant challenges from his or her first day in office, including:

  • the need to keep the Police Service of Northern Ireland independent
  • cutting Northern Ireland’s legal aid bill, significantly higher than elsewhere in the UK
  • reducing delay in the NI criminal justice system, and the number of people in prison on remand as a result of that delay
  • funding and driving through improvements to Northern Ireland’s prisons, especially Magilligan and Maghaberry.

Sir Patrick Cormack MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"We are delighted that the devolution process has been completed during the lifetime of this Parliament. When we assumed our duties in 2005, Northern Ireland had no functioning Executive or Assembly. The long process towards devolution has required immense reserves of patience, and that patience will be best rewarded by the successful transfer of policing and justice to the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland".

Image: iStockphoto

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